Whether you’re a fan of a selfie or a casual bystander, there is no getting away from the craze of 2013. From the infamous Oscar selfie that got retweeted over 37 million times to the social media charity craze the “no make-up selfie”, the fashion for snapping self-portraits is most certainly on the rise and is becoming fully ingrained in our culture.
What is a selfie and where did they come from?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “Selfie” as a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.
The first hint of a selfie appeared in 2006 when MySpace came to life and introduced us to a thing called the “MySpace Pic” – this was an often low-quality image of a person, taken with a poor quality camera phone, usually revealing half of a face and most of an arm.
The selfies trend then went quiet until 2010 when Iphone developed the Iphone 4. What made the Iphone 4 so different you ask? The Iphone 4 gave the user complete control over their selfie with the introduction of a front-facing camera of considerably higher quality than the other cameras on the market at the time.
Since 2010, selfies have been increasing in popularity across the globe. Social media has set fire to the selfie trend, especially with the introduction of instagram and hashtags. In 2013 it was clear that selfies had made it; they were no longer slang, only relevant to the younger generation. “Selfie” was voted the word of the year and was inducted into the Oxford English Dictionary.
Social Media and the selfie
According to the Office for National Statistics, 57% of UK adults use social media on a regular basis. Within this figure, the 16-24 age group tops the charts, with 90% being regular social media users.
Over 103 million photographs have been uploaded to Instagram with the hashtag selfie, and this year we celebrated the first international selfie day.
The perfect selfie – is there such a thing?
The internet is filled with tips and guides to taking the perfect selfie; some say take from above, others say take from the side, some say wear sunglasses, others suggest a hat. Taking the perfect selfie has become an obsession for some, with reports reaching the media of young people becoming so obsessed with taking the “perfect selfie” that they are making themselves ill and requiring medical assistance.
A study carried out by Techinfographics showed that, out of the millions of selfies that are uploaded to social media each day, 14% are digitally enhanced and 36% of people admit to touching up their selfies. Males are more likely to touch-up their selfies, with 34% of those asked admitting to making some improvements to their selfie, as opposed to only 13% of females.
Not only are we bombarded daily with photoshopped images of models and celebrities, we are now inundated by photos of people that we know, touched-up and enhanced to the maximum. Many young people are now comparing selfies, making something that was once a fun way of updating friends and loved ones on social media into an unhealthy obsession.
Alongside the wide range of filters you can use on many smartphones, there is now an app designed purely to make you look skinnier in your selfies. SkinneePix apparently allows you to “lose up to 15lbs”. The app’s description states that “SkinneePix makes your photos look good and helps you feel good. It’s not complicated. No one needs to know. It’s our little secret.” But what we’re wondering is - is this a step too far?
Selfies and the cosmetic surgery industry
We asked Transform, the UK’s leading provider of cosmetic surgery, if young women were attracted to surgery with the aim of improving their ‘selfie’. Shami Thomas, a spokesperson for the company,told us that ‘ [a]n important part of the surgical consultation process is exploring patient’s motives for wanting surgery. In recent years, we have seen an increase in people stating that they were prompted to visit us as a result of feeling unhappy at pictures of themselves.’
The selfie trend is evolving to encompass more than just the user’s face - the recent introduction of a “belfie” (a bottom-focussed selfie) and a “lelfie” (a leg selfie) has meant that the focus is no longer concentrated on the face but on entire body.